Billie Was Tap Dancing for the Seagulls
Intrinsically odd and captivating one-woman show at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2014.
With such an esoteric title, it's hard to know what to expect from Billie Was Tap Dancing for the Seagulls. Yet, even after seeing Katie Bridget O'Brien's one-woman show, it's still hard to know exactly what to make of its intrinsic oddness. She comes on stage dressed in shocking pink with a huge blonde wig dancing with abandon to PJ Harvey. It's met with a stunned silence. Then she launches into her first character: part TV psychic, part deranged Texan prom queen. It's ludicrous and kooky, the bizarre juxtapositions and character quirks eliciting the first giggles from her crowd. Pawing at the audience, with enforced participation, she creates a palpable tension accompanied by nervous laughter.
Her onstage transformation into a friendly, drunken Londoner is so startling there are gasps of surprise when she turns around. The vibe is also completely different as this new character is imbued with a strangely tragic beauty. Next, we meet a former Batty Batty Boom Boom world champion who gets everyone on their feet shaking some booty. Another quick change and it all ends on a deliberately downbeat note with a melancholy song, the lyrics seemingly switched at random.
O'Brien's performance defies both logic and explanation. Sometimes silly and irreverent clowning, at others daring and uncomfortable. The lack of structure and schizophrenic tone is as frustrating as it is compelling. Cutting through the absurdist nature of her creations, there's definitely something captivating about the way O'Brien brings these vivid characters to life.
St John's, 226 0000, until 25 Aug (not 19), 8.45pm, free.